MADISON, Wisc. — Nebraska did something against Wisconsin it hadn’t done all year.
It rotated its corners.
“There was a whole lot of setting the edge and a whole lot of gaps to fill so [defensive backs coach Travis Fisher] just made sure we stayed fresh so people can go in there and hit stuff and move fast,” junior corner Lamar Jackson said.
Rotation was something of a hot topic during the offseason. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander talked about rotating at every spot on defense because of the snap counts Nebraska’s defense was going to see this season. Playing fast means more opportunity for the offense but it also results in more snaps for the defense.
Through the first four games, Fisher had steadily rotated his safeties. Seniors Aaron Williams, Antonio Reed and Tre Neal have all played along with sophomore Deontai Williams. Sophomores JoJo Domann and Marquel Dismuke have also seen sporadic run.
Corner has been a different story. Fisher has remained adamant he doesn’t like rotating that position.
Only Jackson and sophomore Dicaprio Bootle saw serious snaps that weren’t in garbage time through the first three weeks. Freshman Cam Taylor got in for a few fourth-quarter snaps against Troy but that was more based off sub-package personnel than it was Fisher wanting to mix up his corners.
Against Purdue, Jackson was benched in the first half after an interception-negating defensive holding penalty. Junior Eric Lee Jr. replaced him, and played the entire second half. Lee Started the game against Wisconsin, but Jackson replaced him on the second drive.
From that point on, Fisher used a combination of Jackson, Bootle, Lee and bouts of Taylor all night.
Neither Bootle nor Lee were asked about it after the game — both instead opted for what was the theme of the night: optimism — but Jackson voiced some displeasure with the strategy.
“For this game it’s okay but, of course, you don’t want to rotate every week or even most games,” Jackson said. “Playing corner and stuff like that is a rhythm thing so you’ve got to make sure you stay in a rhythm.”
Jackson, in particular, is an interesting case study. He called his benching tough and something he’s never gone through before. But, he said “at the end of the day, I also knew this is where I want to be,” so he wanted to work to get the chance to earn his spot back.
“Once I talked to my coaching staff and I realized we’re on the same page, we were able to work out the kinks and figure out what they had a problem with and get to explain myself a little bit,” he said. “Pretty much they just told me to go to work and start becoming a pro and I just took what they told me, tackled it the best I can, tried to stay positive throughout the week.”
Jackson wasn’t stellar Saturday night by any means. There are still effort plays that make you question what’s going through his head, but it looks like he’ll continue to see chances moving forward. Taylor looked more than serviceable late, but his play marked his fourth appearance this season, meaning the staff will have a big decision to make in the upcoming week.
Even more rotation could be coming.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.